From  the  book  NOMAD  by  Ayaan  Hirsi  Ali

All  black  lettering  and  large  letting  is  mine  -  Keith Hunt

Seeking God but Finding Allah 


(Or  as  I  call  it  -  West  verses  Islam  -  Keith Hunt) 

…….It is true that on a wide range of issues the Roman Catholic Church takes positions with which I, along with most liberals, disagree. On questions such as abortion, birth control, and women priests there are deep divisions within the Western world. Many American Protestants as well as Catholics ape deeply opposed to abortion, a polarizing issue particularly in the United States. But all these differences are matters of debate and not matters of war. Debate, however bitter, takes place within Western societies in a peaceful if sometimes heated exchange of words. The occasional madman who blows up an abortion clinic or murders physicians who provide legal treatments to women whose pregnancies are unwanted is the exception that proves the rule.

The clash between Islam and the West is different. All possible means are used by the agents of radical Islam to defeat the West. Even though most of our attention is consumed by those Muslims who are willing to blow themselves up in the name of their religion, we cannot ignore the more subtle campaign of conversion and radicalization. For too long the West has sat back and allowed Islam to make a run at people who are susceptible to conversion. Sometimes I feel as if the only people in the West who really get this are Jews, who are far more exposed to the workings of radical Islam because of their contacts with the state of Israel.

Take a look at the institutions of the Enlightenment, the schools and universities established throughout the Western world on secular principles. To defend the values of the Enlightenment from the encroachment of Islamist thought they must wake up and see how effectively they have been infiltrated. Their resources are limited, and large donations from Saudi princes and Qatari sultans come with strings attached. Their curricula are increasingly politicized, and they tolerate and even encourage the rise of all kinds of anti-Enlightenment movements based on feelings of group grievance and victimhood. Some teachers even encourage their classes to wallow in self-flagellation over the misdeeds of Western history. Eastern, Middle Eastern, and African cultures that see compromise and conciliation as manifestations of weakness interpret all this as a sign of their own impending victory: it emboldens them.

In this clash of civilizations the West needs to criticize the cultures of men of color too. We need to drop the ethos of relativist respect for non-Western religions and cultures if respect is simply a euphemism for appeasement. But we need to do more than criticize. We need— urgently—to offer an alternative message that is superior to the message of submission.

When I'm told to be careful not to impose Western values on people who don't want them, I beg to differ. I was not born in the West and I did not grow up in the West. But the delight of being able once I came to the West to let my imagination run free, the pleasure of choosing whom I want to associate with, the joy of reading what I want, and the thrill of being in control of my life—in short, my freedom—is something I feel intensely as I manage to extricate myself from all the shackles and obstacles that my bloodline and my religion imposed.

I am not the only one who feels and thinks this.

The multiculturalism and relativism so rampant in Western institutions of learning remind me of my aunt Khadija's imposing and beautiful polished antique cabinet in Mogadishu. One day, when she moved the huge wooden cupboard to clean behind it, the whole thing came down with a shocking crash. An infinite army of termites had ensconced themselves in the rear of the cabinet and had slowly, inch by inch, eaten almost the whole thing. No one had suspected it, and now only the exterior skeleton of the frame was left.

I want nothing more than that pro-Enlightenment, free-thinking atheists should spontaneously organize themselves to combat the comparable gnawing threat of radical Islam. But the likelihood of such an organization attracting significant support seems remote because the children of the Enlightenment are hopelessly fragmented in their views about how to deal with Islam. 

Many contemporary Western thinkers have unconsciously imbibed the toxin of appeasement with the ideas of equality and free speech. They give chairs in the most distinguished and best institutions of higher learning to apologists for Islam. There is no unity, no shared view of how to deal with this threat. Indeed, those of us who clearly see the threat are dismissed as alarmists.

That is why I think we must also appeal to other, more traditional sources of ideological strength in Western society. And that must include the Christian churches. There are people in Europe and America who maintain that it is secularism that has made us defenseless against a Muslim onslaught. But it is not only leftists who appease Islam. Afflicted with similar pangs of white guilt, many prominent Christian theologians have also become accomplices of jihad.

When I came to the West what I found truly amazing was the fact that believers, agnostics, and unbelievers could debate with and even ridicule one another without ever resorting to violence. It is this right of free expression that is now under attack. And in time of war, internal feuding in the ranks—between atheists and agnostics, Christians and Jews, Protestants and Catholics—serves only to weaken the West. So long as we atheists and classical liberals have no effective programs of our own to defeat the spread of radical Islam, we should work with enlightened Christians who are willing to devise some. We should bury the hatchet, rearrange our priorities, and fight together against a much more dangerous common enemy.

Given the choice, I would by far rather live in a Christian than a Muslim country. Christianity in the West today is more humane, more restrained, and more accepting of criticism and debate. The Christian concept of God today is more benign, more tolerant of dissent. 

But the most important difference between the two civilizations is the exit option. 

A person who chooses to opt out of Christianity may be excommunicated from the Church community, but he is not harmed; his destiny is left to God. Muslims, however, impose Allah's rules on each other. Apostates—people, like me, who leave the faith— are supposed to be killed.

Christians too killed blasphemers and heretics, but that was long ago, during the dark days of the Inquisition. On September 12, 2006, at the University of Regensburg, Germany, where he had once taught theology as a professor, Pope Benedict gave a wide-ranging lecture, titled "Faith, Reason, and the University—Memories and Reflections." In it he proclaimed that any faith in God must also obey reason; God cannot ask you to do something unreasonable, because God created reason. Islam, he pointed out, is not like Catholicism: it is predicated on the idea that God may overturn law and human reason. Allah may demand immoral or unreasonable behavior, for he is all-powerful and demands absolute submission.

In spite of the pope's invitation to dialogue with people in other cultures, his speech unleashed Muslim protests around the world, and several churches were fire-bombed: more evidence of the intolerance of criticism of Islam by Islamists. This speech was still very much present in everyone's mind during my visit to Rome eight months later. Indeed, Father Bodar and I discussed it.

Pope Benedict XVI, the Vicar of Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church and Servant of the Servants of God, heads the world's strongest system of religious hierarchy. No other spiritual authority can claim to control such a well-structured network. I'm sure that his pyramid of priests, bishops, and cardinals has kept him fully aware that another spiritual potentate, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, feudal ruler of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, has for years been investing in dawa, in unifying peoples of different languages and geographies into a powerful body called the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a formidable and wealthy body that has transformed the United Nations Human Rights Commission into a sad comedy, organized the Muslim boycott of Danish companies after the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, and sought to influence the domestic policies of several European nations. Members of the OIC, for instance, mounted a well-organized campaign of global condemnation against Switzerland when a majority of voters supported a ban on the building of minarets on Swiss soil. However, members of the nations of the OIC pay only lip service to protect Christians living in their own countries from persecution.

The pope also knows that wherever radical Islamists become a majority they oppress other faiths. In Muslim countries there is no equal competition for souls, hearts, and minds, because atheists and missionaries and communities of Christians are forced to operate in an atmosphere of physical menace. And although there are plenty of mosques in Rome, not a single church is permitted in Riyadh.

Imagine if the pope were to organize some fifty nations as the "Organization of the Christian Conference." They could dispatch deputations of ambassadors every time construction of a church was banned in a Muslim country. Where the OIC seeks Islamic dominance and the erosion of human rights, an OCC would aim for the defense of Western civilization and the advancement of human rights.

A confrontation between the values held by Islam and those of the West is inevitable. There is already a clash, and we are in some sense already at war. That Western civilization is superior is not simply my opinion but a reality I have experienced and continue to appreciate every day. I assume that the West will win. The question is how.

Can the various churches of Christianity help stem this rising tide of violent Islam? Can today's Christianity play a role in preserving the values of Western civilization? Can the Vatican join in this campaign, if not lead the way—or is it doomed to become a decorative relic, like the European royal families and the fish fork? Can the Established Churches of Europe heed my call—or will the cultural and moral relativists prevail, Christian leaders like the Archbishop of Canterbury, who professes to have an "understanding" attitude toward Shari'a?

Globalization is not just an economic process, moving jobs to countries that have cheap labor, bringing goods to countries with money It's also about people. The commercial unification of the world during the West's long boom following World War II brought millions of people from historically Muslim countries to live in Europe with extraordinary speed, far quicker than the process of establishing Christianity in Europe's colonies or the march of Muslim armies from the Arabian Peninsula to the heart of Europe in the century that followed the death of the Prophet. These millions of modern Muslims brought their medieval social mores with them.

At first they were guest workers who intended to work in Europe only temporarily. They left their families in the distant villages of Berber Morocco or Anatolian Turkey. Their belief in islam was mostly like my grandmother's, a diluted, superstitious tradition, more a set of cultural rituals than a rulebook, and they had few mosques in Europe to sustain or harden their observance of the faith. Many of them drank alcohol and adopted other Western habits, and only intermittently observed such Muslim rules as praying five times a day.

But in the 1980s Islam was resurgent again following the siege of Mecca and the revolution in Iran, and many families began arriving in European neighborhoods such as Whitechapel and Amsterdam-West. They congregated in geographically separate communities. And, particularly when there was no colonial history with their host country (and thus no common language), as those communities grew larger they kept more and more to themselves. They shopped at their own shops and watched television from Turkey or Morocco by satellite. And then the imams arrived.

Just as European governments and other civil society groups underestimated the intentions of the radical expansionist agents of Islam, the churches, both Catholic and Protestant, neglected to offer the new Muslim immigrants the spiritual guidance they sought. 

To be sure, many Christian volunteer aid workers offered immigrant communities neutral and pragmatic advice along with social assistance. Islamic charity is conditional on your beliefs; these Christians were ecumenical to the point of making no attempt to convert those they sought to help. Ecumenism for most Christians is a measure of progress, allowing a choice of faiths and forms of worship while establishing peaceful relations between them. Islam is quite different. It was started by a warrior who conquered faster than he could think through a theology or political theory. Islam since his death has been plagued by a crisis of authority, leaving an everlasting vacuum of power that, throughout the history of Islam, has been filled by men who seize power by force. The concepts of jihad, martyrdom, and a life that begins only after death are never challenged. The Christian leaders now wasting precious time and resources on a futile exercise of interfaith dialogue with the self-appointed leaders of Islam should redirect their efforts to converting as many Muslims as possible to Christianity, introducing them to a God who rejects Holy War and who has sent his son to die for all sinners out of love for mankind.

Perhaps if volunteers had more actively preached to these early immigrants and actively sought to convert them to Christianity, the tragedy of the unassimilable Muslim might have been avoided. Converts to Christianity would have recognized the radicals when they arrived and resisted the siren song of jihad.

By the 1990s, however, radical Muslim preachers were going door to door in the tower blocks of Leeds and Lille and Limburg. Indeed, in some of those cities—historically the heartland of Christianity— it seemed easier to find Allah than the Christian God. Despite the enormous potential for assimilation offered by a European urban environment—free schooling of a quality that was certainly much better than that in most immigrants' home communities, free health care, plentiful consumer goods and trinkets, and a powerful cult of material well-being—startling numbers of European-born children began turning toward the Saudi-trained imams and their extremist revival of Islam.

This is a tragic story of countless missed opportunities. 

ined there to become a doctor could become so devoted to a violent interpretation of Islam as to want to blow himself up at an airport along with countless women and children? How could this happen, after so much potential acculturation, so much potential contact with the values of tolerance, secular humanism, and individual rights?

Part of the answer is that out of a misplaced respect for the immigrants' culture, no real, concerted attempt has been made to shift their traditional ways of mind. Despite high rates of crime and unemployment and low rates of success in schools—all indicators of a failure to integrate large numbers of Muslim immigrants into European society—there has not been a deliberate drive to urge immigrants to adopt Western values. 

The other part of the answer is the willful denial by Westerners that there is a clash of values between the West and the rest, and particularly between Islam and the West.

For decades European leaders, including Christian leaders, neglected to bring the newcomers into their fold. They unthinkingly supposed that the buffet of material pleasure and individual freedoms on offer in European cities would be sufficient to lure immigrants from Muslim countries into adopting modern lifestyles. They assumed that, along with pop music, denim jeans, and the legal right to have sex at age sixteen, the values of individual rights and individual choice, intellectual freedom, and tolerance would entice Muslims into accepting modernity in every sense. Christian leaders assumed the passive position that people will be attracted to the church on their own and that the church had no business trying to persuade them of the superiority of the Christian God.

Muslim Brotherhood members, by contrast, are tireless in their efforts. 

A Muslim preacher working in a neighborhood in Glasgow or Rotterdam sets up sports clubs, classes, and discussion groups for children and teenagers, works with criminals and drug users, creates networks to maintain order in his community. In immigrant neighborhoods across Europe so-called Brotherhood Women—young and single and bursting with the energy of the born-again—work their way through the housing projects asking how they can help harried mothers. They clean house and offer tape-recorded cassettes of sermons, along with DVDs of desperate martyrs. They counsel on parenting, on employment benefits, on what to do with wayward kids. They give money and bring medicine. There is no end to the kindness; they are doing this for Allah.

But Allah wants something in return for all this charity. He wants submission of will, mind, and body so total that those kids who are saved from the streets and drug addiction are persuaded to commit to the jihad against the infidel.

As a result the people who live in these ghettoized communities no longer feel alone and alienated. Feelings of social rejection, unemployment, poor educational performance, and, perhaps most urgently, the fear of what a modern value system may do to their daughters—all of these draw people to the Brotherhood's message of an alternative, pure, and good life. Return to the ways of Islam, and everything will be better: this is religion as a dream of returning to the old, sure ways.

For the younger generation, who feel no roots in their parents' home countries, the Brotherhood's focus on the global community of Islam also makes it a powerful force. 

Its simple message of unity in a movement of anti-Western jihad is the teenage dream: rebellion with a cause. All over Europe such young people live in what were once Christian neighborhoods. These places had churches, with congregations, priests, and ladies who put flowers in the chapel every Sunday. But far too few people crossed the tracks and stretched a hand out to the Muslim families who moved into the housing projects of Europe. No priest matched the efforts of the Moroccan imam with the box of cassette tapes. The random messages of Nike advertisements and pop culture were not enough to anchor this new, disoriented immigrant population into a sense of citizenship and community with Europe. The jihadis didn't have any real competition; of course they spread.

The churches must have seen this happening, and yet for some reason didn't seek to raise the alarm. They did not try to fight either the massive wave of conversions of traditional Muslims to fundamentalism or the smaller wave of conversions of people from historically Christian communities to Islam. The reason seems clear: the Vatican and all the established Protestant churches of northern Europe believed naively that interfaith dialogue would magically bring Islam into the fold of Western civilization. It has not happened, and it will not happen.

Right now there are three kinds of messages being disseminated in many immigrant communities in European cities: 

(a) the traditional, more dilute Islam that is mainly a kind of cultural habit; 

(b) strong, radical Islam, which is clearly on the rise; 

(c) and the get-rich-quick scams offered by the lords of organized crime who deal in the trafficking of women, weapons, and drugs.

I would prefer, as a fourth option, to offer Muslims who cling to the idea of a creator and eternal life a religious leader like Jesus, who said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's," rather than a warrior like Muhammad, who demanded that the pious seek to gain power by the sword.

To help ground these people in Western society, the West needs the Christian churches to get active again in propagating their faith. It needs Christian schools, Christian volunteers, the Christian message. The Saudis have no hesitation in converting Jean-Francois and Gustav to become "born-again" Muslims. The pope should be spreading his faith too. For Islam isn't a genetic inheritance. A child born in Holland is not bound to be a Muslim just because his parents come from Morocco.

In the blighted neighborhoods of Europe where the jihadis currently have free rein, there is no special reason why Christians should not set up after-school programs, peer programs for teenagers, sports clubs, and homework help. Religious people are generally more effective than state-salaried caseworkers because they give more time, and when the beneficiaries of this kind of very practical help realize that it is coming from volunteers, that in itself is impressive. 

For a Muslim housewife who feels her family is falling apart, who has no idea how to bring up teenagers in a modern society, whose child has begun stealing or breaking windows, and who receives constant demands and reprimands from social workers, teachers, and policemen, for such a woman it is an intense relief to have a volunteer who comes to help with cleaning, who says, "I know what you're going through," and who comes back again and again. The housewife no longer feels alone.

In the same way, I believe, we now need a Christian school for every madrassa, the Quran schools where children and young adults learn only to drone the Quran and the message of the Brotherhood. Christian schools are often poles of excellence in an otherwise blighted educational landscape, particularly in inner-city neighborhoods. They are schools that teach more than how to recite a sacred book by heart. They teach not only the full range of sciences and humanities, but also about a God who created reason and told humankind to let reason prevail.

This is a contest that Christians have every chance of winning. The belief system of the Muslim Brotherhood stems from a very narrow, Arab culture; that, it seems to me, is its weak point. 

My own country, Somalia, has always been Muslim, but it was never Wahabi until the mid-1980s. Previously, for most Somalis, Islam was more a question of tradition and occasional ritual than daily practice. Women frequently went bare-headed and wore Western clothes. But when people feel alienated and lost, when fundamental changes in their society make the world strange and unrecognizable, they can become vulnerable to foreign influences.

Many people who allow themselves to be drawn into Wahabist Muslim groups are looking for spiritual solace and a strong sense of community in a cruel and troubling world. I was one too, as a teenager. 

What they are getting, though, is a toxic mix of Arab imperialism and a violent, revolutionary cult in the guise of religion. 

If you suggest to a Somali woman in Whitechapel that she become an Arab, of course she'll reject you. But if you show charity and generosity and help her develop a sense of order and goodness, if you terrify her with the punishments and proximity of the hereafter, and if you are the only religion on the market, then she too may be tempted to join the Muslim Brotherhood, and her children may be indoctrinated and recruited for jihad. This is the successful method used by Hezbollah in Lebanon and increasingly by radical Muslims all over Europe.

Religious belief gives you companionship in adversity, the security of fixed rules, and the tempting feeling of self-surrender and submission. I remember the comfort of that feeling. Islam frightens you into submitting. I remember that fear too. The churches should do all in their power to win this battle for the souls of humans in search of a compassionate God, who now find that a fierce Allah is closer to hand.

The critical question is this: 

Does the United States have Christian networks comparable in their strength to that of the Roman Catholic Church that can be used today to combat the next phase of the expansion of fundamentalist Islam into America itself?


I am not a Christian and have no plans to convert. But I am intrigued by religious institutions and the role they play in socializing young people. So on a few occasions since coming to the United States I have accepted invitations to go to church. When I was a Muslim, of course, I used to go to the mosque. 

Although both churches and mosques are religious institutions, I soon learned that they are as different as day and night.

A mosque is an island of gender apartheid. 

As a girl in Nairobi I used to go to the beautiful mosque at the city center, where I had to use the obscure entrance at the back of the building. I slipped in quickly with all the other girls and went up the narrow staircase that led to the female-only prayer hall. This hall was a far cry from the men's hall, with its calligraphic decorations, marble pillars, and curved ceilings with miniature domes. The women's prayer hall was painted in a dull off-white color, and its floors were, covered with plain mats and carpets.

Once we got to our modest hall we did our ablutions. (In those days, unlike now, female worshippers had the choice of veiling in the mosque and then removing their veil after prayer. Due to the strict social control and the popularity of the orthodox-minded, however, that is no longer an option.) Then we lined up in rows. Electronic speakers carried the voice of the imam to our room. We prostrated ourselves. After the formal prayer of many bows we sat down for the supplications. We responded "Amen" to every plea that the imam made to Allah. On Fridays and during Ramadan there were sermons in Arabic to which we quietly listened. At the end of the prayer and sermon we slipped out of the mosque as quietly as we went in.

The contrast with the churches I have attended in America could not be more complete. 

Men and women, children and adults, people of all races intermingle. Their attire is no different from what they might wear on the streets. There are no ablutions. The members of the congregation take their places on long wooden benches. Once in a while people stand up to thank God or to pray, and some kneel down with their heads bowed and their hands clasped together. The sermon is in English, accessible and easy to follow. The central message is one of love……

The churches I am referring to are the mainstream, moderate denominations who emphasize personal responsibility and repudiate the notion that faith and reason are in some kind of conflict. These churches are already well established in America and dedicate part of their time and resources to educational and poverty-relief projects. Some of them are already involved with the new and resettled groups from Africa and elsewhere.

Unlike the Islamists, these moderate churches do not offer spiritual guidance but only practical help. I think they should do both. They need to step up to the challenge of providing new Muslim immigrants with the concept of a God who is a symbol of love, tolerance, rationality, and patriotism. They need to organize, to map the Muslim communities and start a tireless campaign to convince Muslims that a constitution of freedom is preferable to a constitution of submission, that life's challenges can best be overcome with the traditional Christian values of hard work, individual responsibility, frugality, tolerance, and moderation.

Some readers may still be skeptical that the clash of civilizations can be won through religious competition. But I know it can work because I have seen it with my own eyes.

The asylum-seeker center in Lunteren where I lived when I first went to the Netherlands was on the outskirts of the small, close-knit town of Ede. Dutch people from the town's many Protestant churches came by frequently to offer language classes and many other kinds of assistance. They welcomed refugee families into their homes. They didn't do this for other immigrants, but the word asylum has a strong, almost spiritual pull to it, suggesting suffering in a way that the word guest worker does not. So the Moroccan and Turkish guest-worker community of Ede was left to its own devices.

Ede's refugees had Dutch classes, sports groups, help with their kids. Whole congregations helped them out in all kinds of administrative and practical ways, small and large. A few refugee families actually converted to Christianity and were absorbed into the local churches, and it was soon apparent that these people were far more successful than their counterparts in the immigrant zones. Mostly, however, the volunteers would take into their fold only the Christian immigrants but respect the refugees' faith and not attempt to proselytize. Many refugees later moved on to Holland's big cities, as I did, retaining the memory of the goodness and kindness of the many Dutch people who had helped us in the country. I would be willing to bet that those people, and their children, have been subsequently far less receptive to the hateful message of the jihadi Muslims.

The contrast between our experience as asylum seekers and that of Ede's swelling population of guest workers was revealing. 

The guest workers did not receive the tireless individual help that we refugees did, because their community of voluntary migrants was seen as set apart. Community leaders, usually imams, received grants from the Dutch government to set up community centers, where the jihadis lectured people on the West's "crusade" against Islam. In other words, the country paid for its own undermining. 

As a result Ede was the little Dutch town where CNN cameras, who happened to be filming in an immigrant community on September 11, 2001, showed young Muslim kids cheering for the hijackers who brought down the Twin Towers.

But that was only one face of Ede.

When I became a member of the Dutch Parliament the government was sending home asylum seekers whose refugee status had been rejected. 

In the big cities, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, it was common to meet Dutch-born children of Moroccan origin who could barely speak the language properly even after years of schooling; in contrast, many rejected asylum seekers who had lived in small towns like Ede were completely integrated, sometimes after just three or four years. 

Whole congregations would defend "their" asylum seekers and try to prevent them from being deported. They would say, "They are part of our community, their children were born here, they are assimilated."

Thanks to the Christian churches who had taken such care of them, this was true. 

There is a lesson here not just for the Netherlands, and not just for Europe, but for all of the West, America included.




Keith Hunt